Is Grigor Dimitrov finally coming of age?

November 29, 2017
Until recently, anyone setting a pub quiz with some tennis questions might have got a lot of heads scratching by asking who the last player was other than Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer to win the ATP World Tour finals. 

The obvious answer might seem to be Rafael Nadal, but the Spaniard has yet to add this trophy to his magnificent tennis CV. Instead, it was Nikolay Davydenko, the 2009 winner.

However, the answer has now passed to another eastern European, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who beat David Goffin in the final at the O2 Arena.

Few would have predicted such a line-up in the final, but Goffin followed his round-robin stage victory over Nadal - who subsequently pulled out of the rest of the tournament with a knee injury - before defeating Federer in the semi-final. 

However, the man he could not beat was Dimitrov, who had blown the Belgian off the court with a stunning 6-2, 6-0 win in the group stages and came through a tougher battle in the final to triumph 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

For Goffin, this has still been an impressive season and finishing the year at seventh in the rankings represents a career best. True, many of the top players are on the sidelines, but to have defeated an admittedly unfit Nadal followed by a fit Federer at the O2 shows that, at 26, Goffin may have it in him to go on and win a Grand Slam in years to come. 

In some people's eyes, Dimitrov was supposed to do that years ago. The player nicknamed 'Baby Fed' has never quite lived up to the promise he has often shown. At his best, like his first match against Goffin, he is almost unplayably brilliant. But a lack of consistency has kept the big prizes out of his grasp.

Could the ATP Tour Finals win be the catalyst? Dimitrov will certainly hope so. It has propelled him to third in the end of year rankings, which like Goffin and ninth-placed Jack Sock, is a career best. But just as Goffin's run to the final at the O2 and Sock's Paris Masters win - his first ATP title - will be regarded by some as contingent on the absence of Murray, Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka through injury, so the success Dimitrov has enjoyed and its ranking point benefits will be tougher to repeat or build on.

Nonetheless, he knows it is possible. Speaking after his victory, the Bulgarian remarked: "I think I've had good results in the past, but now, as I said, I need to be even more consistent on those kind of events, and in the same time raise up my level on occasions like this.

"Obviously, this is a great, unbelievable achievement for me, yes. But I still have a lot to give. I want to perform better and better."

Those enjoying Wimbledon these past few years may concur. Dimitrov can certainly play well on grass, having won the 2014 Aegon Championships, and he knocked Murray out of Wimbledon in 2014. Even if all the top players are back and fit next year, there is no reason for this highly talented 26-year-old not to make the All England Club the third London venue at which he wins a title sooner rather than later.

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